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J Am Chem Soc. 2002 May 1;124(17):4586-94.

Targeting cell surface receptors with ligand-conjugated nanocrystals.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37235, USA.


To explore the potential for use of ligand-conjugated nanocrystals to target cell surface receptors, ion channels, and transporters, we explored the ability of serotonin-labeled CdSe nanocrystals (SNACs) to interact with antidepressant-sensitive, human and Drosophila serotonin transporters (hSERT, dSERT) expressed in HeLa and HEK-293 cells. Unlike unconjugated nanocrystals, SNACs were found to dose-dependently inhibit transport of radiolabeled serotonin by hSERT and dSERT, with an estimated half-maximal activity (EC(50)) of 33 (dSERT) and 99 microM (hSERT). When serotonin was conjugated to the nanocrystal through a linker arm (LSNACs), the EC(50) for hSERT was determined to be 115 microM. Electrophysiology measurements indicated that LSNACs did not elicit currents from the serotonin-3 (5HT(3)) receptor but did produce currents when exposed to the transporter, which are similar to those elicited by antagonists. Moreover, fluorescent LSNACs were found to label SERT-transfected cells but did not label either nontransfected cells or transfected cells coincubated with the high-affinity SERT antagonist paroxetine. These findings support further consideration of ligand-conjugated nanocrystals as versatile probes of membrane proteins in living cells.

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